Teachers move up to Olympic class

8th August 2008 at 01:00

Focusing on results is increasingly a way of life for teachers. But while her colleagues at home think about GCSE and A-level results over the next couple of weeks, Michaela Breeze will be concentrating on Olympic medals.

The weightlifting PE teacher from Ivybridge Community College, near Plymouth, is one of at least four teachers taking part in the Olympics, starting today in Beijing.

Ms Breeze, already a Commonwealth gold medallist in 2006, is taking part in her second Olympics, having clean-and-jerked and snatched her way to ninth place in Athens four years ago.

Joining her in China are music teacher Hester Goodsell, a rower in the women's lightweight double-scull pairing, and fellow PE teachers Alistair McGregor from Leicestershire, goalkeeper in the men's hockey team, and Tandi Gerrard from Leeds, a diver in the synchronised springboard event.

At least two pupils are also competing for honours. High-profile diver Tom Daley, at just 14, is the youngest member of the Great Britain squad, and Charlotte Craddock, a 17-year-old A-level student, is the youngest player in the women's hockey team.

Ms Breeze only found out that she would be competing three weeks ago, after she was handed a wildcard spot at the Games, where she hopes to finish in the top eight.

"I'm nervous, but I can't wait to get out there and give it my best," she said the day before leaving for Beijing. "It's been hard work over the past few years. Balancing my training with teaching has been a real challenge, but the school has been fantastic in supporting me."

Ms Breeze works three days a week. She makes use of a fully-equipped gym at school to train.

She is also introducing pupils to the sport, which is rarely seen in schools. "We just focus on light weights with the children to give them good technique," she said.

"Most of the pupils don't take too much notice of me being in the Olympics, but I like to think I can inspire some of them."

Hester Goodsell will begin her first teaching job next month at the independent Elvian School in Reading, Berkshire.

She took a break after her teacher-training to focus on rowing full-time, but after almost two years out of the classroom, she has decided now is the time to go back.

"I need to occupy my mind as well as my body," she said. "The training is physically very hard work, but I missed using my mind.

"I missed the challenge of teaching, of devising strategies to teach children and kid them into learning music when they weren't always that interested in the subject."

Ms Goodsell is keeping a video diary of her time at the Olympics -in which she is tipped for a top six finish - to show to her new pupils.

But she did not make a point of telling students about her rowing on her teacher-training placements at Parkside Community College in Cambridge and Saffron Walden County High School in Essex.

"I didn't say anything to begin with," she said. "But occasionally, when pupils would moan about being tired, I would tell them that I had been up training since 5.45am, which I think won me a bit of respect."

Ms Goodsell managed to fit in two training sessions a day as well as her lesson preparation and marking, a regime that she intends to continue.

"If you show you're nervous in front of pupils, they can use that against you," she said. "The same is true with rowing. You have to be confident, especially when the pressure is on."

More than 160 pupils from nine English schools will be in Beijing to watch the opening ceremony, before travelling to Hong Kong to watch the equestrian events.

The trip is the final part of an educational project being run by the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust that has involved English and Chinese pupils taking part in language and cultural exchanges.

- 2012 legacy, magazine, page 8

Not quite so game

More than 700 school-age young people in England were interviewed about the 2012 Olympics in London by researchers working for the Department for Children, Schools and Families, which has responsibility for the educational aspect of the games.

Although most were positive, some of their responses suggested a lack of knowledge - or a healthy cynicism.

Teenager, Leicester:

"They are not going to build all those stadiums in time - it just isn't going to happen. They've already spent like billions more than they should have."

"Year 3, Norwich:

"I don't think it'll be as good as a football match."

Year 3 pupil, Northumberland, on the Olympic logo:

"I've seen those rings - someone on our street has a car with those rings" (referring to an Audi)

The researchers on pupils' reactions to a proposed Shakespeare festival:

"Many struggle to see the link between Shakespeare and the London 2012 Olympic Games."

Teenager, Manchester

"You could be in danger of over-promoting it and some people might get bored, like with the World Cup sometimes - it's everywhere, in Tesco's."

Year 10, London, on plans for a music festival to accompany the Olympics:

"I can imagine the Emos falling out with the Goths ... I wouldn't want to listen to Indie music."

Year 10, Bath, on whether teachers could help promote the Olympics:

"It's asking a bit much for teachers to remember everything"

'The London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games - Children and Young People's Perceptions and Involvement' www.dscf.gov.uk.

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